IRAN’S PRESIDENT….Here in the United States, the universal descriptive shorthand for Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be “ultraconservative,” “hardline,” and “fundamentalist.” But although this may be the facet of Ahmadinejad’s character that fascinates westerners, Reza Aslan reminds us today that it isn’t necessarily what Iranians themselves care most about:

Despite the shrill rhetoric coming from Washington, where officials are now wasting their time trying to determine whether the incoming Iranian president was or was not a radical student hostage taker 26 years ago, Ahmadinejad did not win because of widespread fraud or because reform-minded voters boycotted the elections (though both played small roles). He won because most Iranians…saw him as the only candidate willing to talk about what nearly everyone in Iran ? regardless of class, degree of piety or political affiliation ? is most concerned about: massive inflation, high unemployment and soaring housing prices.

While Rafsanjani and the other half-dozen or so presidential candidates stumbled over each other with promises of social reform and rapprochement with the West, Ahmadinejad promised to stop corruption in the government, distribute aid to the outlying provinces, promote healthcare, raise the minimum wage and help the young with home and business loans.

For more about Ahmadinejad’s focus on poverty and “Iran’s growing wealth gap,” check out this Guardian profile.

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